Friday, October 14, 2016
2016 NLCS preview
By Rick Morris
When you look at how the Dodgers are overmatched on paper against the Cubs – by a decent amount in defense and also starting pitching, notwithstanding the best pitcher of this generation in Clayton Kershaw, by a slim amount in hitting and by a good amount in the bullpen – before even considering that Kershaw may not yet be back at full strength for a probable Game 2 start (and Kenley Jansen has got to be questionable at best for those first two games after NLDS Game 5), this series looks like a foregone conclusion. That’s kind of a sad commentary considering that LA is playing the best team in baseball on paper, yes, but they themselves have the game’s most expensive roster.
Before you regard this series as a foregone conclusion, though, remember the circumstances of the last Dodger World Series title in 1988. Both the NLDS win over the Mets and the World Series win over the As were monumental upsets, so the team would only be going full circle by replicating the feat in this series – although, again, it’s absurd for any team as expensive and talented (in key places, at least) to be this big of an underdog to anyone.
Frankly, both the Dodgers and Nationals entered the NLDS as teams with a great amount to prove given that each has underachieved in the playoffs in recent years and Game 5 even had moments when each team seemed to be trying to give away the game. So realistically, it’s going to take a pennant to shed the weight of failed expectations over the last decade.
Unfortunately for the West Coasters, the Cubs have already been through their own crucible, having survived a near-choke against the dreaded even-year Giants. Additionally, Joe Maddon continues to make a strong case as the game’s best manager and at the very least he has a tremendous advantage over Dave Roberts in experience.
It’s rare to get through an entire LCS preview without even one instance of hedging, but there will be none of that here. Yes, if you want to nitpick, the North Siders are a bit top-heavy in power with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo – more than was expected – but their ability to manufacture runs is extraordinary as well. Just as their neighbors to the South Side did in 2005, the Cubs will get past a team from Los Angeles and they will claim their first pennant in 71 years. Chicago Cubs in 5.
Cleveland over Toronto in 6
Chicago Cubs over Cleveland in 6